Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Convincing Power of an Autographical Record (and Historical Objects)


When King Benjamin taught his sons about the importance of the sacred records, we get this little bit:

O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes. (Mosiah 1:6, emphasis added)

King Benjamin really appreciated that the plates he had were the very thing that Nephi and descendants had written upon.  The object seemed to make the past more real and tangible to him.

Scholars working on the Joseph Smith papers have noted in the videos about the project how special it is to them and how it strengthens their testimony to know they have in front of them something Joseph Smith wrote on or one of his scribes.  It makes the past tangible and real to them.

This principle is also obliquely used in the book Daughters in My Kingdom, which presents at the beginning of each chapter a decorative assemblage of objects from Relief Society and church history.  I remember when I first got the book and looked through it I saw those objects pictured at the beginning and only thought someone crafty in the RS general board had insisted on working scrapbooking into the book to make it look pretty.   I changed my mind when I found that at the back of the book just before the index there was a list of visuals, and those pictures at the head of the chapters had all the objects labeled so that we could see what they were and where they came from and even whom they had belonged to.   These objects give us a sense of our history, imply the truth of what happened, and can give us an appreciation for the conditions the pioneers waded through.  (I suspect that the RS general board hoped LDS women would discern the teaching purpose behind those beautiful visuals.)

What tangible objects do you have that help you remember the truth of the past?